Minister Sisulu slammed after public outburst in Khayelitsha goes viral

Picture: @LindiweSisulu, Twitter
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Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Lindiwe Sisulu, has been slammed after a heated confrontation during an inspection of a fire-ravaged informal settlement in Khayelitsha.

Sisulu has since condemned what she deemed as “opportunists seeking to hijack the plight of the poor” in a statement released on Wednesday.

The Minister also noted a video which went viral, showing her in a confrontation during her visit to the fire-ravaged Taiwan informal settlement on Monday.

Ministry spokesperson Steve Motale says Sisulu made the visit to the Taiwan community on Tuesday, to inspect damage to homes and structures that were razed by the fire, but the Khayelitsha Community Action Network (Khayelitsha CAN) has denied this in a statement of their own, saying she visited on Monday.

Motale said during the inspection, Sisulu was confronted by a man (Nkosikhona Swartbooi) who made “unfounded accusations”.

Khayelitsha CAN released a statement today that said Swartbooi engaged Sisulu at the end of her walk through the community, reminding her of a promise she had made in April 2020 to the eMpolweni community to ensure that materials to build homes would be provided.

Swartbooi recorded the war of words in a video on his cellphone, which later went viral after Axolile Notywala, a Khayelitsha CAN representative, posted it on social media.

Motale explained: “In October 2020, Minister Sisulu gave an update in Parliament on what happened since she visited eMpolweni (where residents’ homes where torn down by the City last year). Minister Sisulu communicated that she had ‘requested’ the National Department of Human Settlements and the Housing Development Agency (HDA) to consult with and engage officials from the City of Cape Town in order to make sure that materials (which were seized by the City) were returned as per court order.”

He said the materials were deemed unsuitable to reconstruct the homes and the department then provided building kits for the community which the City refused to distribute.

Motale said Sisulu has been engaging with community leaders, but Swartbooi has not been part of those discussions as “he is not part of community leadership”.

The Khayelitsha CAN statement explained that Sisulu responded to Swartbooi’s accusations in a violent defensive manner which was very intimidating to Swartbooi and his colleagues.

“At the same time, the Minister went against the current lockdown regulations, removing her mask while addressing Swartbooi in very close proximity. This behaviour by a Minister and an elected member of Parliament is uncalled for and reckless,” he said.

Notywala has subsequently posted the videos from the alleged incident on 4 January on Twitter.

“Had the Minister, Tertius Simmer and Malusi Booi, fulfilled the mandates of the department in making sure that developments for those living in informal settlements happens, we would not be here today,” Notywala said.

On behalf of Khayelitsha CAN, Notywala continued: “We refuse to be bullied by politicians. We will continue to hold public officials and politicians to account for their failures and continue to compel them to fulfill their constitutional obligations.”

Sisulu – who is to provide relief to victims of the fires in Taiwan and Masiphumelele – has sought legal advice and said she will not be deterred from serving “the poorest of the poor”.